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Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Arizona Tucson

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Introduction

Tucson is a city in southern Arizona. It lies about 190 kilometres to the southeast of the state's capital, Phoenix, and 100 kilometres from the Mexican border. It is the second largest city in the state, with around 550,000 inhabitants.
Tucson has always been a crossroads. Until recently, water was relatively plentiful in Tucson, in spite of its location in the middle of a desert. This made it an important travel route, an agricultural center, and a communications nexus. Today, Tucson is still a crossroads, with European, Native American, Mexican, and Asian cultures bumping into one another, in sometimes conflicting and sometimes compatible, but always interesting, ways.

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Sights and Activities

Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro National Park was created to preserve the Giant Saguaro cacti, which only grow in the Sonoran Desert. The park consists of two districts: the Tucson Mountain District, about 24 kilometres west of Tucson, and the Rincon Mountain District, about 32 kilometres east of Tucson.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

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There are over over 250 kilometres of hiking trails throughout the park, but you can just as easily just make a nice early morning or late afternoon drive along well maintained roads.

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Events and Festivals

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, or Celebration of the Cowboys, was established in 1925. The festival coincides with the Tucson Rodeo, and occurs in mid-February.

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Weather

Tucson has hot summers and temperate winters. Tucson has a desert climate, which is not based on the amount of percipitation alone, but is also due to its high evapotranspiration. Summers are characterized by low humidity, clear skies, and daytime temperatures that exceed 38 °C. The average overnight temperature ranges between 19 °C and 29 °C. In Winter the average daytime temperature is 64 °F, with nighttime temperature, dropping below 5 °C. The least amounts of percipitation falls in april, may and june, while july and august has the most.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max17.7 °C19.9 °C22.7 °C27.3 °C32.2 °C37.6 °C37.4 °C36 °C34.1 °C29.1 °C22.6 °C17.9 °C
Avg Min3.7 °C5 °C7 °C10.2 °C14.4 °C19.9 °C23.1 °C22.3 °C19.7 °C13.7 °C7.6 °C4.3 °C
Rainfall22.1 mm17.8 mm18.3 mm7.6 mm4.6 mm5.1 mm60.2 mm55.6 mm42.4 mm26.9 mm17 mm27.2 mm
Rain Days3.42.82.91.41.11.27.47.54.12.52.73.7

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Getting There

By Plane

Tucson International Airport (TUS) offers flights to/from Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix.

By Train

Two trains operated by Amtrak stop in Tucson:

By Car

Tucson is located along the I-10 between Phoenix and New Mexico. Between Tucson and Phoenix the I-8 branches of towards California. The I-19 goes southwards towards the border with Mexico.

By Bus

Check Greyhound buses for options. Travels primarily on Interstate 10 (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso); on Interstate 10/19 (Phoenix, Tucson and Nogales); and on I-8/10 (San Diego, Calexico, Yuma, Tucson and El Paso). Passengers transfer to other buses in Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and El Paso to get to additional cities in the U.S. and in Nogales, Mexicali, Tijuana and Hermosillo to continue to additional cities in Mexico.

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Getting Around

By Car

I-10 and I-19 are the only freeways in Tucson. East-west travel on surface streets above I-10 can be slow during the work day. Tucson has far fewer miles of freeway than other U.S. cities of its size. All east-west travel and all travel on the east side is done via surface streets.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

  • Sun Tran, 3920 N Sun Tran Blvd (main office), ☎ +1 520-628-1565 (customer service), e-mail: suntraninfo@tucsonaz.gov. M-F 6:00am-7:00pm, S-Su 8:0am-5:00pm. An extensive metropolitan bus system, with routes and times listed here. The buses can accommodate up to two bicycles in the front; only folding bikes are permitted inside the bus. One-way fares (exact change required): $1.50 (adults), .50 (concessions), free (children under 5), $2 (express routes); 1-day pass: $3.50; 30-day pass: $42; 30-day economy pass: $15.
  • Sun Link Streetcar - A streetcar route which extends from the University of Arizona to the downtown area and the Mercado district. It has now been integrated into the Sun Tran public transportation system; the streetcar route map can be downloaded here. It is especially popular in the evenings for making the rounds between University and the night life on 4th Ave

By Bike

Tucson is a bike-friendly community, and has an extensive system of bike routes and paths (but is something you don't want to do in the summer unless you are experienced riding in very hot, dry weather).

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Eat

As you can guess, Tucson is a veritable hub of Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. But Tucson is an adventurous town (easily the most liberal metropolitan area in Arizona) and as a result of its diversity, has a vibrant culinary culture.

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Drink

Tucson has an active wine community, with many retailers, restaurants and wine bars regularly offering scheduled wine tasting events. Cochise County, southeast of Tucson has many wineries, some of which welcome visitors.

The majority of Tucson's nightlife for young and old is located in three small areas of the town near the University of Arizona, all within walking distance to each other. The three are: 4th Avenue, University, and Downtown. Tucson nightlife tends to start later than nightlife in other areas of Arizona, such as Phoenix or Scottsdale. Expect bars and clubs to be sparsely populated until approx 10-10:30PM on an average weekend night.

4th Avenue stretches from University ave in the north to downtown Tucson in the south (only about ½ mile long). This stretch of 4th Avenue is the main nightlife strip of Tucson and filled with bars and restaurants of all varieties on each side of the street.

The downtown Tucson area just south of 4th Avenue tends caters to a nicer and wealthier crowd and is home to many of Tucson's higher class restaurants and cocktail bars, as well as the famous Club Congress.

The University ave area of Tucson starts on University/Euclid on the west and runs several blocks until it ends into the school. It is approximately a 10-minute walk along University Avenue from the 4th Avenue area. Like 4th Avenue, University contains a strip of bars, stores, and restaurants that cater to a variety of tastes and ages (not just college kids).

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Hotel Tucson City Center475 North Granada Avenue TucsonHOTEL66
Best Western InnSuites Tucson Foothills6201 North Oracle Road TucsonHotel-
Quality Inn Flamingo1300 North Stone AveHotel-
Americas Best Value Inn-Sierra Vista100 Fab AvenueHotel-
Windemere Hotel Tucson1025 E. Benson HighwayHOTEL-

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 32.227832
  • Longitude: -110.943784

Accommodation in Tucson

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Tucson searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Tucson and areas nearby.

Contributors

as well as Herr Bert (8%), NuMexiKan (2%)

Tucson Travel Helpers

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This is version 27. Last edited at 9:54 on Sep 27, 16 by Utrecht. 13 articles link to this page.

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